Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Italianità: Introduction

All images and essays (c) the individual artists unless otherwise noted

B. Amore
De Iorio Triptych: Family Stories, 1998; wood, tin, photo, mixed media, family artifacts; 41 x 72 x 10 inches. Photo: Tad Merrick

Italianità is the essence of being Italian. It is what defines us as a culture: food and family, superstition and folklore, making things, making do, and the art, music, and literature that belongs not just to us but to the world. Italianità is steeped into the boot that juts into the Mediterranean and pervades the Italian diaspora.

I invited 44 Italian American artists to contribute to this project, curious to know how the culture they experienced relates to their art. On a more personal level, I was curious to know how their stories relate to my own. What I found is that every story is different but similar, a warp of shared experience that supports a fabric woven with our unique individual weft threads. Although we don't identify as "Italian American visual artists," preferring to focus on genre, aesthetic, or medium, our ethnicity informs us. We are painters and sculptors as well as photographers, filmmakers, and animators. We are women and men, gay and straight, spanning an age range from pre-Boomer to Gen Xdescendants, for the most part, of the Mezzogiorno, that beautiful land east and south of Napoli that is blessed by the sun yet was cruelly unable to sustain the hopes and dreams of so many people who tried to eke a life from it. Emigration was their way out.

Our connections to the Old Country remain strong because the connections of our forebears remained strong. Through their traditions we grew up on Italian home cooking and absorbed the language, 
usually dialect, that provided the soundtrack for so many family gatherings. For others of us it's a deep connection to the geography, art, architecture, and history acquired through travel and study.

Is there an Italian American aesthetic? Soprano-style home decor aside (and who remembers plastic coverings on the sofa?), I would say no. Certainly there are themes we explore. And i
n the same way our stories may intertwine, there are inevitably conceptual and physical elements that thread their way through our work. But as you will see from the art shown in this project, even if we borrow directly from the culture our expression has been shaped by our experience as contemporary artists.

Because the blog format has inherent limitations of layout and capacity, I have divided this project into three additional parts, outlined below. Each of the posts is crossed-linked to the others, so you will be able to read everything in a seamless flow. Should you wish to return to specific sections, there are links at the top of each post as well. 

Brian Alterio
David Ambrose
B. Amore
John Avelluto
Nancy Azara
Jennifer Cecere
Joe Cultrera
Elisa D'Arrigo
Grace DeGennaro
Sandra DeSando
Milisa Galazzi
Margaret Lanzetta                                      
Joanne Mattera                                       
Patricia Miranda
Laura Moriarty
Sheila Pepe
Don Porcaro
Patti Russotti
Thomas Sarrantonio
Lisa Zukowski                                                                                                  

Serena Bocchino
Mary Bucci McCoy
Sean Capone
Paul Corio
Janet Filomeno
Michael A. Giaquinto
Robert Maloney
Lloyd Martin
Timothy McDowell
Thomas Micchelli
Sandi Miot
Wayne Montecalvo
Carolanna Parlato
Victor Pesce
Vincent Pidone
Paul Rinaldi
Hugo Rizzoli
(née Maenza) Roland
Grace Roselli
Karen Schifano
Mary Schiliro
Denise Sfraga
Josette Urso
Mark Wethli

Top right: Milisa Galazzi, String Theory Sienna Umber,
2019; paper, thread, encaustic photo, 32 x 22 x 4 inches

Above: Hugo Rizzolil, 
Crooked Shelf Library of Ordinary Miracles, 
2020, mixed media wood assemblage, 16.25 x 12 inches

Sheila PepeOrigin of the World (part one), 2012, installed in the town of Ameno in Novara, Piemonte
Photo: Paola Ferrario